Spat breaks out between two North East MPs over Durham Police 'beergate' investigation

The fall-out rumbles on over the controversy relating to a police investigation into a gathering involving Sir Keir Starmer at Mary Kelly Foy's offices in April 2021. Credit: PA

The latest row between Conservative and Labour MPs has broken out over Durham Police's investigation into 'beergate.'

The force announced earlier this month that neither Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer or the deputy leader Angela Rayner would be fined over the matter.

In a recording for ITV News' programme Around the House, Labour MP for South Shields Emma Lewell-Buck accused Richard Holden of "running a campaign" to get the police to investigate the incident which she labelled a "waste of public services".

Mr Holden, the Conservative MP for North West Durham, responded by saying it was a "disgraceful slur" and that it was "only right when there was significant new evidence that the police investigated".

The controversy relates to a gathering attended by Sir Keir and Ms Rayner during a Covid lockdown.

The opposition leader was filmed drinking a bottle of beer alongside a takeaway curry with colleagues in the offices of City of Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy ahead of the Hartlepool by-election in April 2021.

At the time, non-essential retail and outdoor venues including pub gardens were open, but social distancing rules, which included a ban on indoor mixing between households, remained in place.

An investigation into the incident was launched after Durham Police said was there was the "emergence of significant new information".

Both Sir Keir and Ms Rayner promised to step down if they were found to have broken the rules.

On Friday 8 July Durham Police confirmed neither would be fined.

They said: "There is no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations, due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work."

The force continued: "Durham Constabulary will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken."

Watch Around the House on Thursday 14 July on ITV1 at 10:45pm.

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